Bayer Material Science, www.bayermaterialscienceNAFTA.com
Electric Power Research Institute, www.epri.com
Thresher Industries Inc., www.thresherindustries.com

Three new flame-retardant polycarbonate/acrylonitrile-butadienestyrene (PC/ABS) blend resins use postconsumer recycled content and thus can help OEMs hit a higher rating in the U.S. Government’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) for evaluating the sustainability of specific electronics. It’s possible to get an additional one or two EPEAT points by selecting these grades, says developer Bayer MaterialScience.

Bayblend FR610 GR has a minimum of 10% postconsumer recycled content and at least 30% postindustrial recycled content for a total of at least 40% recycled content. It also meets UL 94 V0 at 1.5 mm, 5 VA at 3.0 mm. Bayblend FR630 GR is a minimum of 30% postconsumer recycled content and has a total recycled content of at least 55% (UL 94 V0 at 1.5 mm, 5 VA at 3.0 mm). Bayblend FR632 GR is a minimum of 30% postconsumer recycled content and 55% total recycled content (UL 94 V0 at 1.2 mm).

Bayer says these new Bayblend grades maintain the properties of a typical flame-rated PC/ABS product, including good rigidity, hardness, dimensional stability, impact strength and creep resistance. Typical uses are in housing and other electrical and lighting components such as switch and meter housings, security and surveillance equipment, and battery housings. Other potential application areas include the IT, telecommunications and medical industries, as well as business machines like copiers, printers and scanners and electrical/electronic lighting.

Bayer MaterialScience has also come up with two new biocontent polycarbonate blends containing polylactide (PLA), a polymer derived from plant materials. Makroblend BC250 and BC400 are general-purpose grades that contain 25 and 40% PLA, respectively. The biocontent grades can serve in applications such as cell phones and smart phones, portable electronics, housings and enclosures, furniture, sporting goods, toys and automotive interiors.

The Nautilus Core System is billed by developer Thresher Industries as a proprietary biodegradable manufacturing process of producing cores used in aluminum and magnesium casting. The system lets the core be removed easily through high pressure steam or water. Core material can also rest in areas unsuitable for sand or foam core. The Nautilus Core can be used to generate internal and runner shapes as well as passages in most metal castings, including high-pressure and permanent-mold castings as well as plastic parts.

According to Thresher, the technique helps reduce material costs by as much as 80% and waste by 100%. Thresher uses the direct metal-induction cast process and high-pressure die casting with the Nautilus Core to produce cast-aluminum components. The technique has been used to create intake manifolds, one-piece water pumps, and other parts for several major automotive companies.

How to slow the growth of electricity consumption
Energy-efficiency programs in the U.S. could slow the growth of electricity consumption by 22% over the next two decades, says the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto, Calif.

The report, “Assessment of Achievable Savings Potential From Energy Efficiency and Demand Response in the U.S.,” projects energy-saving measures could cut consumption 236 billion kW-hr in 2030. The amount is said to be the equivalent of 14 times the current annual electricity consumption of New York City.

The demand for electricity grew 1.7% per year between 1996 and 2006. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 2008 Annual Energy Outlook projected demand would increase 1.07% each year between 2008 and 2030, for a total increase to 4,696 TW-hr. Energy-saving initiatives could cut that growth rate to 0.83%.

The report divides potential energy- saving initiatives — both those that boost efficiency and those that reduce demand — into residential, commercial, and industrial sectors. In the industrial sector, EPRI figures process improvements and better efficiency in electric motors, facility lighting, and HVAC units could reduce energy use.

Energy savings in the commercial area will come mainly from facilities improvements like more efficient HVAC units and lights, better insulation, and such waste reducing measures as programmable thermostats and computerized lighting controls, says the report.

In the residential sector, analysts see more households installing efficient refrigerators, washers, dryers, and other major appliances. Consumers will also improve the efficiency of home heating and cooling systems, cut energy losses through better windows, walls, pipes, and roofs, and save water.

The researchers claim consumers tend to put more weight on energy efficiency when electricity is expensive. However, growing demand means power companies will have to add electricity-generating capacity, a move which may depress the cost of energy and, with it, consumers’ drive to save energy.

The costs of upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment could also be a factor in some sectors. A realistic slowdown in energy usage could cost between $19 and $47 billion by 2030, including technology upgrades and administrative costs. That translates to a cost of about $0.03/kW-hr saved.

Edited by Jessica Shapiro